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Germantown Village Board rejects ban on flying model aircraft in parks

Recent injury was deemed accident

Dec. 17, 2013

Germantown — A model aircraft caused a recent injury at Friedenfeld Park. But officials say an outright prohibition of the hobby in Germantown's parks just doesn't fly.

The Village Board on Monday was presented with a draft ordinance. If enacted, it would have prohibited all hobbyists from flying their model aircraft throughout green space in the community.

The ordinance, written by Village Attorney Brian Sajdak, was in response to a Sept. 26 incident, involving a woman being struck in the head by a model plane. The victim sustained multiple lacerations and a concussion. She received 16 staples to her head as part of her treatment.

The Germantown Police Department responded to the scene, and the man flying the aircraft reported the incident was accidental. He reportedly flew his model airplane frequently at Friedenfeld Park.

"This incident was rare and unintentional," Justin Casperson, park and recreation director, wrote in a memo. "However, we cannot ignore that people can become seriously injured from this activity."

The village's Park and Recreation Commission had reviewed the ordinance and forwarded it on to the full board with a favorable recommendation. But the board had a different take on the issue. The nine members voted unanimously in favor of nixing the ordinance.

While he noted the unfortunate nature of the events, Trustee Al Vanderheiden said he could not support the ordinance.

"The parks are for all," Vanderheiden said. "(The hobbyist's) intention wasn't to hit anyone."

Trustee Shane Daniels, a model aircraft hobbyist himself, said he believed the document as drafted is overly punitive and a direct reaction to a singular incident.

"To say that there isn't space at our parks to do this isn't necessarily accurate," Daniels said. "When you're in a park, you can get hit with anything, including a baseball or football."

Trustee Jeff Werderman inquired where a line would be drawn if the village reacted to accidents as they occurred.

"There are a number of activities that could be potentially dangerous," Werderman said. "Before you know it, we could have our parks carved up into different activities. But parks are about open space and are places for people to enjoy various activities. In life, accidents happen."

From the research he conducted, Casperson said no nearby municipalities have an ordinance prohibiting flying model aircraft in village parks.

"But they haven't had anyone injured, either," Casperson said of the neighboring communities.

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